Earth Days of Future Passed

By David Hoza

With a little help from the Salt Lake Tribune’s archive.

by David Hoza

Earth Day offers a centering moment for imagining goodrelationship with one another and the planet, wise use and caretaking of evermore precious resources – the ‘live and let live’ of our wildest imagination.This vision can help guide our everyday actions, from the creation of local,regional, national, and global solutions to life habits for a low carbonfootprint in the year to come. It’s what the world needs now.


The Salt Lake Tribune has annually included Earth Dayfeatures and happenings, posted in their online archives dating back to theearly 1990s. The Tribune shapes mainstream perceptions of the current Earth Dayand its focus and charts through the archives a history of how many of us arelikely to recollect Earth Day in the coming years. Any major media sourceimpacts our perceptions of events, choosing what is newsworthy and what not,what might grab attention or spark controversy. We may think "news"when actually reading what writers and editors target for a select part of the readership.None of us should be surprised that Earth Day celebrations and environmentalpriorities were swept under the newsroom carpet while all eyes and ears focused-courtesy of mainstream media outlets-on all the varieties of interestconcerning the war in Iraq in April 2003, and its early flag waving of triumph.


That said, the Trib editorial staff has repeatedlyasserted a healthy vision and reflection for Earth Day, even as they present abalance with the views of critics and opposing legislators. Staff writer TomWharton has been especially consistent in his support of Earth Day ideas andideals.




The American public reflected a "new interest in theenvironment, spawned by Earth Day 1990." Though the Clean Air Act of 1990was one result, the Bush Sr. administration was reportedly quick in underminingthe legislation.


The upcoming Earth Summit, held in June 1992 in Rio deJaniero, brought the U.S.’s 25% contribution to global CO2 emissions to theworld’s attention.


Local musings included fuel efficient cars and"funding of a light rail system through congested routes."


TreeUtah rounded up hundreds of volunteers to plant 8,500pinyon and other native species where Emigration Canyon recently burned.




The week before Earth Day, "Voice of the West"Wallace Stegner died.


Earth Day Utah sponsored a "Race to Save thePlanet." Imagine a ‘moonrace’ for alternative energy development andglobal warming slow down.


Recently elected President Clinton pledged U.S. supportto the biodiversity treaty signed at the 1992 Earth Summit by all majorindustrial countries except the U.S.


The Trib editorial staff dubbed Earth Day "a forumfor exchanging ideas and solutions for environmental problems."


The "good old days" were revisited when apartnership of national environmentalists and Utah’s Wilderness Associationbrought 625,000 acres of wilderness under the wilderness study umbrella, landthat would otherwise "become coal strip mines, oil-shale projects, powerplants, highways, and a nuclear-waste dump." However, Utah was on its ownin preventing development of a hazardous waste site.


An article on NPR’s Earth Day special described howTelluride was dealing effectively with the impact of 10,000 visitors at the1992 annual bluegrass festival. Highlights included all your bluegrassfavorites and a mention of the Deprung Loesling Monks performing "amountain shaking chant." (These monks visited Park City in October 2005,spending a week creating a healing mandala.




1994 was a local watershed year for Earth Day. LowellBennion Community Service Center at the University of Utah sponsored athree-day celebration.


Terry Tempest Williams celebrated Earth Day by readingfrom her book, "An Unspoken Hunger," at the King’s English Bookshop,a National Writer’s Workshop, a Utah Wilderness Coalition benefit, and a SUWAbenefit.


Vice President Al Gore called global warming "themost serious problem our civilization faces," pointing to a "vastpreponderance of scientists who have studied the evidence," and asubversive media campaign misleading the American public.


The Sierra Club criticized the White House for"backpedaling on its plans to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990levels by 2000."


The American Rivers Council’s eighth annual list ofendangered and threatened rivers included the Virgin, due to Las Vegas waterdemands.


A story headlined "Green Movement in Disarray asEarth Day Approaches" reported conservative views of environmentalists asChicken Littles "crying wolf." An environmental coalition spokeswomanrebutted; "I don’t remember a time when we didn’t turn out to beright."




Earth Day’s silver anniversary evoked retaliatorymudslinging and distortion of "environmentalist" images. With NewtGingrich as Speaker of the House, environmental labels were hijacked andtwisted to distance citizens from critical values that polls indicated a largepercentage of Americans supported.


Denis Hayes, coordinator of the first Earth Day and chairof the international Earthday Network, noted that "environmentalist"had become a dirty word, and the "environmental movement" was facinga hostile political climate.


An article under the headline "Earth Day at 25"looked at "how far we’ve come."


National gas prices averaged $1.16 per gallon.


Widespread denial continued over global climate changeand warming. Alternative energy source subsidies were in deep remission,favoring huge fossil fuel subsidies. Alarming species extinction rates weregenerally ignored, air and water quality were popularly portrayed as "goodenough." The issues of sprawl and mass transportation to reduce auto usagewere generally dismissed from the mainstream debate.


Concerned environmentalists pointed to stealth techinquesof "the new Republican-led Congress." 


SUWA acknowledged BHP Petroleum for moving a proposeddrill site out of the Studhorse Peaks area, recommended as wilderness. UtahEarth Day awarded BHP an Earth Day award.


"Testimony: Writers of the West Speak on Behalf ofUtah Wilderness" was delivered to Congress in September.




Poet Laureate Robert Hass, the Orion Society and othersco-sponsored Watershed: A National Celebration of Writers, Nature and Communityfor Earth Day 1996 at the Library of Congress to "insist on includingecosystems and their plant and animal species in our notion of community."Joy Harjo, Gary Snyder, Terry Tempest Williams, Barry Lopez, Rick Bass, PeterMathiessen, Wendell Berry and others were invited to speak.


Vice President Al Gore labeled the 104th Congress"the most anti-environment Congress in 220 years of Americanhistory." President Clinton said, "None of our children should haveto live near a toxic waste dump, or eat food poisoned by pesticides. Ourgrandchildren should not have to live in a world stripped of its naturalbeauty."


A growing stack of evidence confirmed global warming andclimate change due to human impact. Air, water and open space quality were -andare-ongoing critical issues.


Draper touted its mandatory recycling program, the thirdin Utah, after Sandy and South Jordan.


China announced it would send an expedition to collectgarbage on Mount Everest, in conjunction with UN World Environment Day, June 5.


A series of articles discussed the greening of businessesand skepticism over "greenwashing."




The black-footed ferret lost its endangered speciesstatus, thus protection for this Uinta Basin native. Local and regionalpartnerships developed conservation agreements to provide protection whileminimizing impact on farms, jobs, development and regional economies.


The EPA also struck deals on the Bonneville cutthroattrout, Arizona willow, Colorado cutthroat trout, Coral Pink Sand Dune tigerbeetle, Virgin River spinedace, and the flower Gilia caespitosa.




The Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy partnered withfarmers opposed to selling farmland to development of the Legacy Highway. TheSierra Club spokesman said "public transit and better urban planning couldhead off worsening traffic on Interstate 15…a new highway would just fuelsprawl".


In June, a letter to the editor railed on the lack ofEarth Day features and complained that pollution updates had been removed fromthe Tribune’s pages.




Chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall spoke at KingsburyHall in honor of Earth Day. The Jane Goodall Institute, featuring a variety ofeducational and environmentally protective functions, and the youth-based Earthcare group Roots and Shoots, have become her main vocations. She said,"The question I’m asked the most is, ‘Jane, is there any hope?’


…The hope lies in the fact that all around the worldpeople have become aware of the problems."


Early Earth Days raised awareness of environmental issuesand their impact across religious, political and cultural spectrums. Tribunearticles in 1999 focused on creating awareness through Internet actioncampaigns on specific issues and daily personal action.


The Goldman Environmental Prize, recognizing individualsworldwide who make significant environmental contributions with grassrootsaction, described one such recipient as an "African man who devoted hislife to protecting the world’s second largest tropical rain forest."


Locally, Rep. Jim Hansen "stole" Bill #1500,previously corresponding to HR1500, the wilderness protection bill. His billsought to limit time for decisions on wilderness designation.


"The Consumer Guide to Effective EnvironmentalChoices," written by two scientists and reviewed by the Tribune for EarthDay, prioritized reducing the need to drive, buying a home near publictransportation, and eating less meat and poultry, the raising and processing ofwhich contributes to "about a quarter of the threat to natural systems andwildlife."


The Clinton Administration launched an initiative toimprove visibility over national parks by reducing haze from coal-fired powerplants.


The Salt Lake Olympic Committee got into the Earth Daylimelight in part because of an ecological mandate added in 1994 to thegoverning principles of the International Olympic Committee.


SLOC donated 3,000 trees to elementary schools in 1999,and another 1,500 through 2002.




The Tribune’s April 22, 2000 issue sported an articletitled "Gore Takes Pride in Being Tagged as an EnvironmentalExtremist." The article refers to his 1992 book "Earth in theBalance," which proposed a 25-year time frame for phasing out the internalcombustion engine, a major polluter in an era of unprecedented sprawl andpopulation growth.


The Toyota Prius, one of the first hybrid cars, made itsappearance.


Average gas prices averages hovered around $1.50 pergallon nationally.


An editorial by Leonardo DiCaprio, national chair forEarth Day 2000, called global warming "the single most importantenvironmental threat to the future of our planet and all living things onit."


Elizabeth Fowler of the Pacific Research Institute wroteon the improved environmental outlook due to economic growth. She ended hereditorial with: "This is why we can look forward to a 21st century inwhich the worldwide story will increasingly resemble that of the UnitedStates." (It sounds more ominous now, doesn’t it?)


The Nature Conservancy announced a five-year, $32 millionUtah Lasting Landscapes Campaign.


The theme of Earth Day 2000 was "Clean EnergyNow," with a host of proposals by then presidential candidate Al Gore totarget CO2, a leading contributor to global warming and mercury, major powerplant emissions.


Ted Turner spoke at the Borah Symposium, a University ofIdaho forum, on "Natural Resource Conflicts in the 21st Century,"advocating an era of sustainability and attention to overpopulation. "Heencouraged students to vote…for politicians who are talking about the future,energy efficiency and disarmament."




Earth Day messages in 2001, after the contestedpresidential elections, reverted to "what we can do individually at hometo make the environment a better, more sustainable place." One articlewondered where all the "protesters" and "revelers" were.Even before the 1990s, Earth Day events had shifted from the early protests toa more sober and family-oriented focus.


The Tribune ran an editorial by Rep. Jim Hansenproclaiming his love of the Earth and chastising the activists who vilifiedcorporations on Earth Day. His depiction of Earth Day events asserted farmersand sportsmen were unwelcome and would be treated with hostility. Hisdescription of a clean, natural environment enjoyed by ideal constituentfarmers and sportsmen is exemplary of what Earth Day strives to achieve for allof us.


Davis County Landfill poet laureate and Salt Lake FirstNight organizer Jeffrey Berke was honored by a Mayor’s Artist award.


University of Utah’s Lowell Bennion Community Centercompleted its Bend in the River Urban Tree House on the edge of the JordanRiver, a five-year environmental project.




Little Earth Day or environmental content appeared in theTribune, save for a report on a resolution sponsored by VFW #7 in southwesternUtah based on a conspiracy theory that Earth Day was chosen to coincide withLenin’s birthday.




One feature touted: "Is the EnvironmentalistCelebration Still in Style?"


Moab celebrated Earth Day by announcing plans to becomethe nation’s inaugural Blue Sky community by purchasing a minimum of 2440blocks of wind power each month. This is "the environmental equivalent ofreducing CO2 emissions more than 4 million pounds annually".


"Earth Day Matters" noted the March reversal ofthe ban on snowmobiles in Yellowstone. Former Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson, in"Beyond Earth Day," reported that a single snowmobile’s hydrocarbonemission is roughly equal to 1000 autos, and CO2 emissions equate to roughly250 autos. He cited 68,000 snowmobiles used per season in Yellowstone as of2002.




An editorial titled "The Earth’s Day" spoke in2004 of the need for states to lead the way in the wake of the administration’srejection of the Kyoto global warming agreement.


Sugar House held Earth Day events during the celebrationof its 150th anniversary.




Kids Organized to Protect Our Environment, with alongstanding, award-winning relationship to Hidden Hollow, were featured inTribune Earth Day coverage.


Meat and agricultural runoff highlighted threats to theenvironment.


A "We’re bringing back Earth Day!" articlefeatured an extensive list of things to do, places to visit on the Web, andways to lower one’s impact on the environment.


"Act Locally" featured the message that our"highest environmental priority is to cut down on fossil fuels …whichgreatly influences…global politics."


Notably, the 14th annual Earth Jam, held at Liberty Park,was mentioned along with its website, Earth Jam was probablythe largest, most comprehensive event since the University of Utah’s events inthe early ’90s, offering visitors the opportunity to see and hear aboutfeatured Earth Day issues, information booths, farmer’s market merchandise,kid’s events and music by a variety of artists.




Jason Mark, vehicles director of the Union of ConcernedScientists, discussed the need for alternative energy funding in developingcars that are less oil-dependent. The numbers-$1.7 billion spent daily on oilproducts (up 25% from the previous year) and $6 billion per month spent on theIraq War versus $35 million per month on oil-saving cars and fuels-werestaggering.


A Tribune editorial praised local and state leaders forattempting to cut automobile and power plant emissions and lower dependency onfossil fuels by developing clean fuel alternatives, such as solar and windprograms. Earth Day events and informative booths were also featured at LibrarySquare.




Green housing projects led 2007’s lineup of Earth Dayarticles. The theme for 2007 was "Changing Climates," with regional,state and local leaders praised for attempting to move forward to capgreenhouse gas emissions and develop alternative energy. The headline read"Environmental Protection is Up to All of Us."


Earth Jam featured 112 vendors. One sponsor suggested AlGore’s "An Inconvenient Truth" may have sparked a sense of urgency toget active.




2008’s Earth Day still a few weeks in the future as thisis written, but already some Tribune coverage is evident. A Bend in the Riverevent is in the works, libraries will be hosting events, and Earth Jam plansare underway. (See Calendar, this issue.)


The United Nations has declared 2008 the InternationalYear of Planet Earth, with New Zealand, one of the first countries to pledge acarbon neutral future, to host.


Costa Rica’s exemplary actions in alternative energyinfrastructure, which serves as a model for other nations, were recentlyfeatured in an NPR story.


Clearly many of the celebratory, kid-oriented, localclean-up, restoration, and basic information opportunities of previous EarthDays have only grown stronger. With a growing interest in global warming andclimate change petitions, openness to kids and family, and the addition of theLibrary Square venue, more options than ever are available for informingindividuals of alternatives and the means to take action. Whether supporting apetition to persuade legislators to fund clean energy solutions, or learninghow solar may be able to reduce power costs to the individual consumer, EarthDay continues to provide access to progressive wisdom and efficientalternatives, to inform and offer action on issues threatening our wild andurban environments, quality of life and quality of health.


We owe it to ourselves-across the religious, political,and cultural spectrum-to take advantage of unprecedented opportunities tobecome more informed, change less sustainable patterns of behavior, and act topersuade our legislators to support greater environmental protection and lowercarbon fuel alternatives.


The Tribune’s 2007 Earth Day editorial ended this way:"In the spirit of Earth Day, Americans must quit waiting for Washington towake up to our environmental crisis and act individually and locally. Afterall, it’s our Earth, and our future on it, that are at stake."


I have never agreed more with a newspaper’s views. Thisyear and for the next 30 years, the Tribune’s words can define for me and mycity our "Earth Day, Every Day" vision.


David M. Hoza, a poet and writer, lived off the grid for10 years. He currently is enrolled in the Environmental Studies at theUniversity of Utah.



This article was originally published on April 1, 2008.